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Unguarded Machinery - Not worth the risk

An unguarded piece of equipment might seem innocuous but could cause serious harm to employees.

Moving machinery can cause injuries in many ways:

  • People can be struck and injured by moving parts of machinery or ejected material

  • Parts of the body can also be drawn in or trapped between rollers, belts and pulley drives

  • Sharp edges can cause cuts and severing injuries, sharp-pointed parts can cause stabbing or puncture the skin, and rough surface parts can cause friction or abrasion

  • People can be crushed, both between parts moving together or towards a fixed part of the machine, wall or other object, and two parts moving past one another can cause shearing

  • Parts of the machine, materials and emissions (such as steam or water) can be hot or cold enough to cause burns or scalds

  • Injuries can also occur due to machinery becoming unreliable and developing faults or when machines are used improperly through inexperience or lack of training

There are numerous accidents every year involving machinery and these incidents can have a terrible impact on the lives of those involved. In order to prevent this from happened it is essential that machine guards are used to prevent any possible contact between moving parts of a machine and the worker. They are also used to contain fragments and particles released by a machine. The measures used to prevent access to dangerous parts should be in the following order:

  • Use fixed guards (eg secured with screws or nuts and bolts) to enclose the dangerous parts, whenever practical. Use the best material for these guards – plastic may be easy to see through but may easily be damaged. Where you use wire mesh or similar materials, make sure the holes are not large enough to allow access to moving parts

  • If fixed guards are not practical, use other methods, eg interlock the guard so that the machine cannot start before the guard is closed and cannot be opened while the machine is still moving. In some cases, trip systems such as photoelectric devices, pressure-sensitive mats or automatic guards may be used if other guards are not practical

  • Where guards cannot give full protection, use jigs, holders, push sticks etc if it is practical to do so

  • Control any remaining risk by providing the operator with the necessary information, instruction, training, supervision and appropriate safety equipment

For more information on the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 read our previous blog post. Further information on any relevant specific Safety Directives can be found on the HSE website.

As an example, EHSR 1.3.7. of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC says:

"1.3.7. Risks related to moving parts

The moving parts of machinery must be designed and constructed in such a way as to prevent risks of contact which could lead to accidents or must, where risks persist, be fitted with guards or protective devices.”

For any help in assessing the risks posed by equipment in your workplace, or ensuring adequate guarding and control measures are in place, please contact us here.

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